LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
observations: Catriona McPherson is a hugely talented writer, and one who really should be better-known (along with blog favourites Marina Endicott, Anne Donovan, and Jane Thynne). Her Dandy Gilver books sound as though they fit right in with many other historical murder stories but (no offence to the others) they are head and shoulders above them. CMcP has a unique style – she makes no pretence that she is not writing with the benefit of hindsight (watch the dates in this one, for example) but at the same time Dandy is not some feisty feminist woman landed in the 1920s and being independent in a wholly unconvincing way: she is a real person, one you feel you could meet at a party and recognize. There is no doubt that the author is a very modern woman with very proper views (see her website here), so I admire her for putting this into the mouth of her heroine:
I had no wish to sound like a suffragette – all very worthy I am sure, but so dull at parties-- many moderns writing about the era insist on having their heroines far too politically correct.
The books are also hilarious – they have complex and clue-filled plots, they are real detective stories, but Dandy’s comments and relationships are very funny.
McPherson specializes in strong, fascinating backgrounds: previous books in the series have been set in a circus, a department store and a girl’s school. Each time she outdoes herself: here we have a wonderful health hydro in the Scottish town of Moffat, and as ever it is conjured up to perfection, with lots of detail about the treatments on offer, the atmosphere and the buildings. The contrast of health, the 1920s equivalent of a spa, and the extremely creepy plot is superb.
Dandy and her maid Grant and CMcP are all very properly concerned with her clothes, and there are great lines like this one:
I had overdressed a little for dinner, to Grant’s satisfaction, and was just about swanky enough to walk into a casino without attracting attention. (Rather depressing when that is the highest aim of one’s toilette, but for this evening anyway I was thankful.)Links on the blog:The books have featured before here and here. In Evelyn Waugh's Helena, the Empress Fausta dies in a Turkish bath.